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Sunday, 30 June 2013

From Today's Papers - 30 Jun 2013
IAF sets example for itself, world
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Gauchar, June 29
As the Indian Air Force winds up one of the biggest rescue operations in its history, some important lessons have been learnt by the force -- flying under tough conditions, landing of helicopters on makeshift helipads high in the Himalayas and the daunting task of saving every human life in crisis. Such an experience is all set to enter the IAF folklore and possibly be a case study in conducting operations at a short notice in the future.

Wg Cmdr RC Pathak, who led the operations at the makeshift rescue launch pad for helicopters at this small airstrip here, is relaxed now and the enormity of the task has just started to sink in. Was this operation a history in the making? “Maybe”, says the officer while talking to The Tribune. He listed the June 23 rescue operation at Jungle Chatti, some 6 km south of Kedarnath, as the toughest challenge.

The rescue effort coordinated by Air Officer Commanding, Air Cdr Rajesh Issar, temporarily based at Dehradun, has seen almost all helicopters except the attack choppers, Mi-35/Mi-25, operate from Gauchar, a sleepy Himlayan hamlet at an attitude of 2,400 feet. The Mi-26, the heaviest flying helicopter in the world landed here to drop aviation fuel. The Mi-17, the Mi -17 V5, the Chetaahs and two versions of the Advanced Light Helicopters operated from here. Gauchar offers one of the few flat surfaces in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. The peak of operations was June 23 when the by-now-famous-operation was carried out to evacuate stranded pilgrims from Jungle Chhati.

On June 20, Wing Commander Pathak, who leads the ‘Sarang’ helicopters display team, was at Hyderabad. At night, pilots were at the wedding anniversary of a fellow pilot. The Sarang team was slated to perform at the IAF Academy at Dindigul. “Around 8 pm, I got a call from Air Headquarters to fly out to Sarsawa (near Saharanpur) at first light. Even as we were reaching there, I was told to land at Dehradun”, recollects the Wing Commander.

Even as he listed Jungle Chatti operations being the toughest, the Wing Commander said the first task was finding a place to build a helipad. A bend on a kutcha road was identified. Sq Ldr Vipin Takawale and his co-pilot Sq Ldr Kusbhoo Gupta did some 80 sorties saving people, as June 24 and June 25 were listed as days of heavy rainfall.
India, China discuss ways to avoid border incidents
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
More than two months after their tense border stand-off, India and China today concluded their 16th round of boundary talks, considering additional confidence building measures (CBMs) to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border.

National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshanker Menon led the Indian side while the Chinese team was led by State Councillor and former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the two-day meeting held in Beijing. The two are the Special Representatives (SRs) of their respective country for finding a settlement to the lingering boundary dispute from the political perspective.

A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) here said the talks were held in a productive, constructive and forward-looking atmosphere.

As directed by their Prime Ministers, Menon and Yang discussed ways and means of strengthening existing mechanisms for consultation and coordination on border affairs and methodology to enhance the efficiency of communications between the two countries.

During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India in May, both he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked their SRs to consider how their two countries could avoid incidents like the three-week face-off in Ladakh in April when People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops pitched tents in the Indian territory.

Officials from the two sides continued their discussions on a framework for a resolution of the boundary question, which constitutes the second step of a three-stage process. The first stage was to formulate the guiding principles which resulted in the 2005 agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles for settling the boundary issue.

Menon also called on the Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The Indian official’s visit comes days before Defence Minister A K Antony’s visit to Beijing next week. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will also be meeting his Chinese counterpart next week on the margins of ASEAN meetings in Brunei.

Special Representatives meet

NSA Shivshanker Menon led the Indian side while the Chinese team was led by State Councillor and former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the two-day meeting held in Beijing

The two are the Special Representatives of their respective country for finding a settlement to the lingering boundary dispute from the political perspective
Navy gets stealth frigate INS Trikand
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
In a boost to its naval prowess, India today inducted a Russian-built guided missile warship into the Navy at a shipyard in Kaliningrad there.

INS Trikand, a frigate built in the Russian Federation, was commissioned into the Indian Navy at Kaliningrad in Russia by Vice-Admiral RK Dhowan, vice-chief of the naval staff, an official release said.

The commissioning of INS Trikand marks the culmination of a three ship contract for "Follow On Talwar Class" ships built in Russia and was a milestone in the Indo-Russian military-technological cooperation, said the release.

"Her sister ships INS Teg and INS Tarkash were commissioned last year and are now undertaking operations as part of the Western Fleet," the release said.

INS Trikand carries a state-of-the-art combat suite which includes the supersonic BRAHMOS missile system, advanced surface-to-air missiles Shtil, upgraded A190 medium range gun, electro-optical 30 mm close-in weapon system, anti-submarine weapons such as torpedoes and rockets and an advanced electronic warfare system.

The ship is powered by four gas turbines and is capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots, it said.

INS Trikand has a complement of about 300 personnel including officers. The ship will soon undertake her maiden passage to India to join her sister ships of Western Fleet, the release said.
India’s first dedicated navigation satellite set for launch tomorrow

Chennai, June 29
The countdown for the launch of PSLV-C22, carrying India's first dedicated navigation satellite IRNSS-1A on July 1, began today at Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, some 80 km from here.

"The 64-and-a-half-hour countdown for the launch of PSLV-C22, which will carry IRNSS-1A started this morning at 7.11 AM. We are on schedule and everything is normal," ISRO spokesman Deviprasad Karnik said.

The ISRO said the satellite, with navigation and ranging payloads, would provide accurate positional information to users as well as the whole region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary.

IRNSS-1A has already been mounted on an 'XL' version of the launch vehicle, ISRO's 24th mission of a PSLV.

This is the fourth time in 24 missions ISRO will use an 'XL' version for the launch. It has used XLs for launches of Chandrayaan 1 (PSLV-C11), GSAT-12 (PSLV-C17) and RISAT-1 (PSLV-C19).

IRNSS-1A is one of seven satellites constituting Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) space segment.

IRNSS-1A, which will be launched at 11.41 PM on July 1, is one of seven satellites constituting the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) space segment. — PTI
In grief, let’s not forget the heroes that did us proud
We must learn the hard lessons so that we do not repeat our mistakes. But most of all let us not forget to say a big THANK YOU to the personnel who did a splendid job of the rescue in Uttarakhand.
Raj Chengappa

Why is it that whenever there is a major tragedy, as the one in Uttarakhand, our first impression is that the state and Central governments have bungled? That we have no faith in their ability to act speedily in a crisis situation? That everything that will go wrong, will go wrong wherever government action is called for? That we as a nation are conditioned to first feel bad — like a kangaroo court that decides that the accused is guilty, irrespective of the facts.

How else does one explain why we are reluctant to acknowledge that despite the gloom over the loss of lives something commendable has also happened in Uttarakhand? That over 1,00,000 people have been evacuated to safety from the most treacherous terrain and weather conditions in the past fortnight.
That the Indian Army, Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National Disaster Relief Force, state government employees and countless others have done a stupendous job in rescuing the stranded despite grave risk to their own lives (20 personnel lost their lives while doing so). They showed us that we as a nation could rise above our differences and shortcomings and act as one when catastrophe struck.

Even developed nations have struggled to act when Nature unleashes its wrath. Recall how the US, when Hurricane Katrina struck its Atlantic coast with such ferocity in 2005, struggled to respond despite having the most sophisticated warning systems in place. New Orleans was inundated and the state was helpless as people took shelter in a giant stadium to avoid being drowned. More recently in 2011 Japan was stretched when a tidal wave caused widespread destruction and even a meltdown of the nuclear power plants in the Fukushima. So we must as a nation feel proud and grateful to all those people both in government and NGOs who pulled off the amazing rescue act. If not for their efforts the death toll would have been far higher than what it is today in Uttarakhand.

Sure there were shortcomings in our response to what happened in Uttarakhand. We could argue the Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) could have warned the state much earlier about the impending deluge. That the state government should have prevented pilgrims from going to some of the holiest of Hindu temples once the Met department had sent out warnings. That the National Disaster Management Authority could have acted with greater alacrity and effectiveness.

Unfortunately, even as the rescue efforts were on in full swing, the state government was being lambasted by all, including the media, for allowing hotels and tourist facilities from coming up on the banks of the rivers. People forget that in every state or major city in the country, buildings violating civic laws are the most common offences — it is a national affliction. So why should Uttarakhand be the paragon?

There are a lot of wounds the nation still has to heal in the coming days. In the first two weeks the focus was on rescue and relief, especially of tourists and pilgrims from outside the state. Meanwhile, close to 2,300 villages in the flood-affected areas of Uttarakhand remain cut off with roads leading to them damaged. Power lines are down. Drinking water pipes are broken. Health services are non-functional. A colossal effort is required to ensure people in these villages receive timely help. The state government will need all the assistance it can get both in terms of money and manpower from the Centre and any other state or NGO volunteering help.

Simultaneously, efforts must be made to repair the vast network of national highways and state roads that have been damaged in Uttarakhand on a war-footing. This is the time to study vulnerable zones and build adequate fortifications so that they do not collapse easily. While rebuilding tourist facilities this is also an opportunity to put in place building restrictions and identify safe zones. Long-term conservation plans of the entire Western Himalayas straddling Uttarakhand, Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir need to be implemented to put an end to the rampant deforestation that is changing weather patterns, eroding hillsides and silting rivers.

As we look ahead at what more needs to be done in Uttarakhand, we must as a nation be mindful of the limitations and respect those who fight the battle against great odds. We must come together as one and not play politics in rehabilitation as many parties and politicians did while rescue and relief efforts were on. We must learn the hard lessons so that we do not repeat our mistakes. But most of all let us not forget to say a big THANK YOU to the armed forces in particular and the other rescue personnel in general for the splendid job they did in Uttarakhand. By their selfless actions and heroics, they remind us of what a great nation we really are.
Sri Lankan army seeks officers' training in Pakistan
COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan army has sought more training opportunities for its officers in Pakistan, in addition to the ongoing training programmes, Xinhua reported on Friday.

The matter was discussed as visiting Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met his Sri Lankan counterpart General Jagath Jayasuriya at the army headquarters, said Sri Lankan army' media unit.

Discussions between both the army chiefs centred largely on military related matters of mutual interest, training and possibilities to further enhance bond of goodwill and cooperation, it added.

The discussions also focused on possibilities of further broadening bilateral understanding and goodwill among officers of both organisations.

The request for training came was made in the wake of Sri Lanka withdrawing two army officers while undergoing training in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The two officers, who were following the Defense Services Staff Course (DSSC) in Tamil Nadu's Wellington town, returned prematurely this week following stiff opposition in the south Indian state over the training being given to them.

The Sri Lanka army had turned down an offer by India to train the two officers at another location in place of the Defense Services Staff Course (DSSC) in that town.

The army said that due to some security concerns the Indian government had offered transfering the two officers from DSSC Wellington to the Higher Defense Management Course (HDMC) in the College of Defense Management in Andhra Pradesh state.

However the Sri Lankan authorities declined to accept it as it was observed that the HDMC was not in line with the initial purpose of sending the two officers for training in India.
Pak PM talks peace, its army kills Indian jawan
Tension has again gripped the Line of Control (LoC) after Pakistani army violated the border ceasefire and fired indiscriminately on the Indian forward positions leaving one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) dead in Saujiyan-Mandi sector of Poonch district in Jammu division.

The fresh ceasefire violation comes a day after the new Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif offered olive branch to India and vowed to “progressively pursue” normalcy to settle all outstanding issues including Kashmir.

SN Acharya, officiating defence spokesman at Jammu, said the firing came from thick forests across the LoC at around 1pm in Saujiyan-Mandi sector. “They used pika guns, rocket propelled grenades (RPG) and under barrel grenade launchers (to attack the Indian positions),” he said. A naib-subedar of the Indian army received grievous shrapnel injuries in the firing. He was rushed to the hospital where he succumbed to wounds.

The slain soldier has been identified as Bachan Singh. Indian army retaliated in a calibrated manner to the Pakistani firing to silence the guns from across the LoC. “There was a calibrated retaliation from our side. We have cordoned off the area. Search operation is on in the area (to find out any infiltration bid if any),” said the defence spokesman Following the firing, Indian army has put its troops on alert in all sectors along the line of control (LoC).

The ceasefire violation comes five months after Pakistan troops crossed the LoC and beheaded Lance Naik Hemraj and severed head of Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh of 13 Rajputana Rifles at Mendhar sector. There have been 154 ceasefire violations along the LoC from 2009 to August 2012.  Of which 28 were reported in 2009, 44 during 2010, 51 in 2011 and 31 between January and August 2012.

The ceasefire violation in Mandi sector has come at a time when all eyes are focused on the visit of prime minister Manmohan Singh to Srinagar on June 25. Political observers are attaching much importance to the visit saying the future of the peace process hinges on the visit. Observers, however, cautioned against those elements who may try to vitiate the atmosphere in both countries before the visit.

Not first incident
This is the fourth ceasefire violation on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir since May 24 when a brigadier and a jawan were injured in the Pakistani firing in Nougam sector in north Kashmir.

There was subsequent ceasefire violation in same sector days later.

On May 31 night the army killed three militants in the same sector who were trying to infiltrate into this side. Pakistan army also violated ceasefire violation in Chakan da Bagh area of Poonch district on May 27.
Singapore, India renew bilateral agreement on joint army training
The renewal allows the Singapore Army to train and exercise with the Indian Army in India for another five years.

SINGAPORE: Singapore and India have renewed a bilateral agreement on joint army training.

The renewal allows the Singapore Army to train and exercise with the Indian Army in India for another five years.

Permanent Secretary (Defence) Chiang Chie Foo and his Indian counterpart Defence Secretary Radha Krishna Mathur signed the renewal of the Bilateral Agreement for the Conduct of Joint Army Training and Exercises on Monday.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen and Indian Defence Minister AK Antony. Mr Antony is in Singapore on a working visit.

The agreement was first established on 12 August 2008.

Both armies have jointly conducted bilateral armour and artillery exercises, with the most recent bilateral armour exercise carried out in March 2013.

Both armies also carried out a combined artillery live-firing in December 2012.
Commandant of Indian Defence Academy Visits Sudan
Commandant of the National Defence Academy (NDA) of India, Air Marshal K.S.Gill made a two day visit to Sudan. He visited the Sudan Military College, Joint Military Staff College & Higher Military Academy, and Karary University and met senior Military Officers of Sudan. Air Marshal Gill was very impressed with the infrastructure he saw during his visit. He thanked Maj.Gen.Yahya Mohamed Kher Ahmed the Commandant of Sudanese Military College for his hospitality. He also thanked Brig.Gammar Defence
Attaché of Sudan in India who had met him at NDA and invited him to Sudan. Air Marshal Gill was accompanied by Colonel Girish Kalia Defence Attaché of India in Cairo; Mr. Subhash P. Gupta, Second Secretary of the Embassy of India, Khartoum and Maj.Bora of the Indian Army.
Interestingly the magnificent administrative building in NDA is named Sudan Block in honour of the sacrifices of Indian soldiers in the liberation of Sudan in the East African Campaign during World War II. It was inaugurated by then Ambassador of Sudan to India, Rahmatullah Abdulla, on 30 May 1959.
We must define the role of armed forces in disaster management
The latest Himalayan tsunami that suddenly struck Uttarakhand and parts of Himachal Pradesh has once again revived debate over whether it was a natural disaster or a man-made tragedy. Whatever be the answer, one thing that comes out clearly from what followed the catastrophe is that neither the Centre nor the state government were in a position to respond to it adequately.

Notwithstanding the fact that an elaborate disaster management structure has been put in place and it is mentored by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) under the Prime Minister, the level of response of Central and state agencies left much to be desired. The fact is that, except for the NDMA, even after eight years of the enactment of the Disaster Management Act, SDMAs are yet to be established all over the country and made operational. In some states, the department for disaster management is the changed name of the department of relief and rehabilitation, home guards and emergency fire services with ad hoc personnel. The ITBP, Indian Army and Air Force, resultantly have to step in and assume total control of a situation wherein the first responders proved inadequate.

In India, the level of preparedness for disaster management at the Centre and in the states is extremely uneven and requires considerable strengthening. The concept of handling disasters with appropriate programmes on disaster management based on the fundamental elements of prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, relief and recovery is of recent origin.

However, although the responsibility for coordinating disaster response and relief operation is that of the home ministry, it is the armed forces under the defence ministry that are called out to assist and manage the situation. Generally, the armed forces respond to disasters as a part of their mandate to aid civil authorities during calamities. Their involvement, however, was meant to work on the principle of being the ‘last to enter and the first to leave’. Conversely, in most post-disaster operations, the armed forces have been the first to enter and the last to leave.

Since the civil administration remains ill equipped for undertaking quick response to major disasters, the armed forces have been the primary option to handle major disasters. As one of the most dedicated, professional and modern armed forces in the world, the Indian forces respond to any disastrous situation with all their might.

They are also located in most remote areas where natural calamities are frequent. For instance, when the tsunami hit the Indian coast on December 26, 2004, the Indian armed forces, co-coordinated by the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), efficiently handled relief, rescue and evacuation work. Whether it was the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, the tropical cyclone in Bangladesh in 2007, the flash floods in Ladakh’s capital Leh in 2010 or the Sikkim earthquake of September 2011, the armed forces have been at the forefront of disaster management.

The involvement of the armed forces in disaster response and relief operation is an important issue in civil-military relations. In the Indian context, their role is primarily in response to the immediate requirement of human resources and technical equipment for rescue and relief operations by the civil authorities of the affected area. However, in view of the fact that the disaster management system of the civilian administration is yet to become operational, the civil authorities will continue to depend on the armed forces for disaster response. Hence, a defined role for the armed forces in disaster management is required.

First, the government must set up a centre for excellence in disaster management for the Indian armed forces. Second, since the field formations are unlikely to be equipped with the state-of-the-art equipment to deal with disasters, the field formations in the disaster-prone areas need to be given brick formations (logistics) specifically for disaster response at the earliest. This would ensure that the military equipment meant for war is not used for secondary tasks.

Efforts should be made for using the expertise of the armed forces for bolstering the capacity of the civil authorities, including the disaster response forces. It would enable the latter to achieve self-reliance and thus reduce their dependence on the armed forces.Enhancing capability for risk reduction in urban as well as rural areas and having suitable legislative and regulatory mechanisms to promote safe buildings should be encouraged as part of the civil-military relations programme.

An equally important imperative for disaster management is the need of self-restraint by the political class. In a democracy, as elected representatives that form the government, politicians no doubt must be at the forefront of handling any situation that affects the masses. They, however, should not indulge in partisan blame game and refrain from undertaking ‘observation sorties’ in state helicopters that can be put to better use in rescue and relief missions.
Army to plug operational gaps in modernization plan
NEW DELHI: The Army is finally cranking up its modernization drive, with around 680 procurement projects worth over Rs 2 lakhcrore for the 12th Plan (2012-17) period, to plug operational gaps as well as ensure "capability development" along both the western and eastern fronts.

With the 1.13-million Army lagging far behind the much smaller IAF and Navy in terms of modernization, General Bikram Singh has pressed the throttle hard to usher in several systemic procurement changes to ensure the force manages to overcome "operational hollowness" within strict deadlines.

The steps range from "in-house refinements", "streamlining of the procurement process" and high-powered monitoring to detailed action plans, "prioritization and periodic re-casting of acquisition plans", say officers.

The Army certainly has a lot of catching up to do. It has been grappling with ill-equipped infantry battalions, tanks running out of ammunition, lack of modern 155mm howitzers, night-blindness, obsolete air defence weapons, aging helicopters and the like for several years now.

The Army's inept management of projects, the defence ministry's cumbersome defence procurement policy and last Army chief Gen V K Singh's messy battle with the government, all had combined to stall the modernization drive.

"But with streamlining of capital procurement procedures over the last one year, things are moving now. In the 2012-2013 fiscal, 29 contracts worth about Rs 7,000 crore were inked. We will do even better this year...four contracts have already been concluded," said a senior officer.

Gen Bikram Singh has identified 31 of the 680 projects as "Priority-I", which include assault rifles, howitzers, bullet-proof jackets, tank/artillery ammunition and missiles. The around Rs 10,000 crore project for induction of 1,78,000 new-generation assault rifles, with interchangeable barrels for conventional warfare and counter-insurgency operations, for instance, is being finalized.

The first 65,000 rifles will be imported from the selected foreign vendor, with the rest being manufactured by Ordnance Factory Board. In the backdrop of almost 50% of the global tenders or RFPs (request for proposals) being recalled earlier for "faulty" technical parameters, the Army is trying to ensure "realistic, unambiguous and implementable" GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) for new weapon systems are drawn up. An important reform is the establishment of "trial cells" in the six operational commands to ensure field trials of weapons can be conducted in "a swift, coordinated and transparent manner".

"The overall effort is fast-track files and projects. Organizational re-structuring of the Perspective Planning and Weapons & Equipment directorates is also being done. A Higher Forum headed by the vice-chief monitors all modernization proposals every month," said an officer.

Gen Bikram Singh is also pushing hard for the early approval of the proposed mountain strike corps (around 40,000 troops), which will be headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal, to plug gaps as well as get some ground offensive capabilities against China. The project will cost around Rs 81,000 crore spread primarily over the 12th Plan period, with some spillover into the 13th Plan if necessary, as reported earlier.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

From Today's Papers - 29 Jun 2013




We will evacuate the last survivor, says Army Chief

Orders final combing operation

1,500 still at Badrinath

Ajay Banerjee/TNS


Joshimath/Gobind Ghat, June 28

All pilgrims stranded at Badrinath will be evacuated using a trekking route or helicopters by tomorrow, or at best by Sunday morning. The airlifted will be brought to Gauchar or Joshimath, while the pilgrims opting to trek will be ferried in vehicles Gobind Ghat onwards.


Around 750 pilgrims trekked the 13-km Badrinath-Gobind Ghat stretch today, while around 1,500 were still stranded at Badrinath. Senior Army officers claimed Badrinath would be totally evacuated if there was no rain for the next 24 to 36 hours.


Army Chief General Bikram Singh today visited the Gauchar base camp, met troops of the Army and ITBP and lauded the job done by them over the last 12 days. He ordered one last "combing operation" on the worst-hit Gaurikund-Kedarnath stretch lest any survivor should be left out. Army and ITBP jawans accompanied small groups of pilgrims on the trekking route.


Addressing the media, the Army Chief said: "We will continue to look for survivors and each of our countryman has to be brought out." He, however, refused to give any time limit for completing the rescue operations saying "everything depends upon the weather".


General Bikram Singh was lavish in his praise for the synergy shown by all central forces. "The Army, the IAF, the ITBP and the NDRF did a commendable job in difficult circumstances. The synergy was very good," he said. He said he had "come to give a pat on the back of all the boys". The Army Chief also met officials of the IAF and the ITBP. He was schedule to fly to Joshimath, but had to cut short his visit due to bad weather. He, however, spoke to pilgrims through video conferencing. He spoke to a small group of pilgrims evacuated from Badrinath. Nileesh Ladda of Madhya Pradesh thanked the Army Chief saying "we are safe because of the Army". The General responded "this is your Army, it will take care of you".


Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who was on the second visit to Dehradun since the disaster struck the state, said all-out efforts would be made in the multi-agency operations to locate those still trapped under debris and gone missing.


"The Air Force will deploy more MI-17 helicopters to evacuate all. The helicopter fleet will remain stationed in Uttarakhand for 15 more days," he told reporters.


Commander of the Joshimath-based 9th Brigade Brigadier Akshat Arora said, "We have advocated that the aviation resources be kept here till road links to villages were restored." These helicopters could be used to make requisite supplies. At Gauchar, the IAF is winding down its operations. (With PTI inputs)

Central health team, IAF to stay back after rescue op

Union Tourism Minister announces special Rs 100 cr package for Uttarakhand

Tribune News Service


Dehradun, June 28

Twenty rescuers comprising personnel from the Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and National Disaster Response Force, who were killed in the Mi-17V5 helicopter crash in Kedarnath valley on June 25, were given a guard of honour at GTC helipad in Dehradun today.


Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Army Chief General Bikram Singh and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna laid wreaths on the bodies of the martyrs and gave a ceremonial salute.


Union Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi and National Disaster Management Authority member VK Duggal, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Maj Gen BC Khanduri, several state ministers and senior defence officials from the Army, Air Force and NDRF also laid wreaths on the mortal remains of the bravehearts.


Addressing mediapersons, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announced that bodies of the martyrs would be taken to the nearest airport at the place of their residence.


He said that after the completion of the rescue operation, the Indian Air Force would remain stationed for 15 more days to provide rations in villages of Uttarakhand where roads have been completely washed off.


Underlying the need to take precautions so that an epidemic does not take place, Shinde said a Central team would remain in Uttarakhand to assist the state Department of Health and Family Welfare. Union Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi, who accompanied the Union Home Minister, announced a special package of Rs 100 crore for the state.

Khurshid to meet Chinese FM on margins of ASEAN

Ashok Tuteja/TNS


New Delhi, June 28

India and China are expected to discuss the dates for the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's proposed visit to Beijing when External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid meets his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the margins of ASEAN meetings in Brunei next week.


Khurshid will start from here on Sunday for the tiny oil-rich country to attend the India-ASEAN ministerial meeting, the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Conference and the third East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting to be held on July 1 and 2.


The minister will also utilise the opportunity to chair a meeting of Indian heads of missions in Asia and the Pacific during his visit to Brunei. He will later travel to Singapore for a bilateral visit on July 4 and 5.


Briefing reporters here today, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the Indian minister would hold bilateral meetings with many of his counterparts on the sidelines of ASEAN engagements. The meetings with the foreign ministers of China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Australia and Brunei had already been fixed. The focus would obviously be on Khurshid's meeting with his Chinese counterpart. This will be their second meeting. Khurshid had met Wang in Beijing in May, just days after the tense three-week stand- off between the two countries over the Chinese incursion in Ladakh ended.


The two ministers are likely to take stock of the bilateral relationship as well as discuss the expectation from the coming visit of Defence Minister AK Antony to Beijing. Manmohan Singh is also expected to visit Beijing later this year as a follow-up to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India in May.


Developments in Afghanistan, the Korean peninsula, the South China Sea and West Asia are expected to figure prominently at the ARF meet. Growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea has been a source of worry for most ASEAN countries as well as India.


During his address at the ARF meeting, Khurshid is likely to reiterate India's stand that there should be freedom of navigation in international waters for all countries and any maritime dispute between individual countries must be settled through peaceful talks in accordance with international laws.


Issues like counter-terrorism, organised crimes, maritime security and disaster management would dominate the discussions at the ARF meet.


On agenda


    External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will leave for Brunei on Sunday to attend The India-ASEAN ministerial meeting, the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Conference, and the third East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting

    Besides holding meetings with many of his counterparts, Khurshid is likely to discuss with Wang Yi of China the expectation from the coming visit of Defence Minister AK Antony to Beijing and the bilateral relations between the two nations

China ready to 'break new ground' with India


Beijing, June 28

China today said it was ready to "break new ground" with India to resolve the boundary dispute as their special representatives discussed the proposed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) against the backdrop of the recent Chinese incursion in Ladakh.


Meeting for the first time after the May incident, the special representatives of India and China today held the 16th round of boundary negotiations looking to accelerate settlement of the dispute.


National Security Adviser and India's designated Special Representative Shivshankar Menon held the first round of the two-day talks with his new Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in a "cordial and friendly atmosphere".


"I stand ready to work with you to build on the work of our predecessors and break new ground to strive for the settlement of the China-India boundary question and to make greater progress in the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership in the new period," Jiechi said.


Menon said the talks focussed on strengthening mechanism to keep peace and tranquility at the border in the backdrop of the incursion by Chinese soldiers.


The BDCA would be discussed further during the next week (July 4 to 7) visit by Defence Minister AK Antony. — PTI


Border talks


    India and China hold the 16th round of boundary negotiations in a bid to settle the border dispute

    The two sides met for the first time after the May incursion by Chinese soldiers in Ladakh

A look at Himalayan disaster relief operations through Indian Army Tweets


Indian army started a twitter service sometime in 2012., I am their follower on tweeter and important bits of information sometimes comes through. During the relief operations, which are being carried out in Himalayas for flood affected victims, army has sent stream of tweets along with pictures and videos every day, explaining the relief work that they have been doing on that day. From the tweets it is possible to imagine the vastness of this operation and the efficiency with which army is carrying it out.

It began on 17th June 2013, when first tweet appeared which said:




A Column each of Army deployed in Rudra Prayag, Govind Ghat & Hemkund Sahib, Uttrakhand today morning for #floodrelief operations."


Since this tweet, army has been sending tweets continuously, explaining what they are doing. After a couple of days, it became impossible for me to keep track of Army operations as the operation was so enormous. I thought that it would be easy to follow up with Google earth and here is the result.

The first image shows four main areas where the army has been helping trapped people. These areas are Rishikesh-Uttarkashi-Harsil-Gangotri; Rudraprayag-Kedarnath; Joshimath-Badrinath and Dharchula-Tawaghat in Pithoragarh district. The total area covered is about 225 Km in along northeast and about 140 Km along north east: or about 32000 sq. Km spread from Nepal border to Tibet border. The Army has mobilised nearly 8,100 troops, as it simultaneously reached out to thousands of stranded people in four regions.

 Over next few days, they tried everything they could. On 17th-18th June, the Army opened the road up to Uttarkashi after clearing 16 landslips. It has also opened the road up to Sonprayag in the Kedarnath region after the successful launch of a bridge across the Vasuki Ganga between Mundkatiya and Sonprayag. As many as 2,500 stranded people were evacuated from Sonprayag. In these 2 or 3 days The army manged to rescue around 11,000 people, mainly from Govindghat and Harsil and around 10,000 people were provided food and medical assistance.

Troops skilled in mountain rescue operations, including paratroopers, were heli dropped to reach out to the people stranded in isolated areas along the Kedarnath and Badrinath region as the Kedarnath shrine was totally cut off, especially the stretch between Gourikund and Sonprayag, Army's newly formed air wing performed very well and effectively with its HAL-built Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters, which can carry 10-16 people on heights of 10,000 feet. In all 11 helicopters were used and on 17th June itself 50 sorties were carried out.

The army was able to deploy 10 Specialised Mountaineering Teams in the worst-hit Kedarnath area and set up relief camps at Harsil, Joshimath, Rudraprayag and Gauchar Advanced Landing Grounds.. The Army also built a helipad at Lambaghat school at Govindghat. Since bridges on Alaknanda river were damaged efforts continued to repair the bridges over Alaknanda between Govindghat and Ghagria on Hemkund Sahib road. In Darchula sector 2 babies were even delivered by army doctors.

This gigantic and Herculean humanitarian effort still continues as in some inaccessible pockets, people still remain trapped. Along with the tweets, army has sent number of photographs and videos, which give an idea of the stupendous work done by the Army. The army deserves full complements not only from the flood affected but all citizens of India. A great job well done!

DRDO CHIEF INTERVIEW Part1: First Full-Rate Production LCAs This Year

 The first two to three full-rate production LCA Tejas Mk.1 fighters for the Indian Air Force will roll out HAL's production facility in Bangalore in December, marking a major milestone in the trouble's programme's final leg. The aircraft will be the first of an order of 40 placed by the IAF of the Mk.1 variant slated to enter squadron service by the end of next year.


In an exclusive interview to Livefist, the DRDO's new chief Dr Avinash Chander, said, "I feel very confident that LCA is within a visible range  for production start. The target is that production should start this year. We should see two-three aircraft rolling out this year itself."


After taking over as the DRDO's new chief last month following years at the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), where he found renown as the spearhead of the Agni strategic missile programme, one of the first things that Dr Chander did in his new capacity was fly down to Bangalore and chair a series of meetings with officials from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), CEMILAC, National Fight Test Centre, HAL and the handful of other agencies involved in the development and certification of the LCA Tejas. His message was simple, yet clear: the air force, and indeed the country, would not wait any longer than the end of next year for the Mk.1. He told them, in no uncertain terms, that the next 18 months needed to be the fight of their lives. No excuses. Tejas needed to leave the DRDO stable, he impressed, because there were bigger, more challenging aircraft to build for the IAF. The DRDO, he told them, simply couldn't be stalled with the programme any longer.


With over 2,200 test sorties on the board, the Tejas has 140 hours of test flying left before it achieves the second phase of its initial operational clearance (IOC-2), indicates Dr Chander, a special set of test points deferred from the first in January 2011. "The residual tasks are quite minimal. Some weapon release trials we have to do, some modifications we have done need to be tested. The radar has to be tested for operations. A total of 140 hours are planned in the next few months for IOC-2. With that the aircraft will be cleared for production."


Final operational clearance (FOC)), the final step before induction into an IAF squadron, is set for November-December 2014. "We will complete the FOC by 2014 end. There are some issues when you touch the boundaries of performance, which have been identified and come out only during flight test. Those will be rectified. For FOC, there will be a variety of weapons, all weather clearance."


Right about the time that the Tejas Mk.1 achieves IOC-2, two more naval prototypes will roll out, followed by a first flight before the end of the year. "The test facility is getting ready. I am confident that the LCA Navy will be on schedule," says Dr Chander. The first prototype, which took off in April last year, hasn't flown for nearly a year now, with the platform's undercarriage undergoing a major re-design with the help of EADS as a technological consultant.


"The safety record of the Tejas during testing has been absolutely superb. No other aircraft has this record," Dr Chander says with pride.


The new DRDO chief has asked for an update every alternate day on the LCA programme, and will be briefed by his special team entrusted with keeping things on track over the next 18 months.



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